Category Archives: Reissue

THE ROOTS – Things Fall Apart

Album: Things Fall Apart

Artist: Roots

Label: Universal

Release Date: September 27, 2019

The Roots’ ‘Things Fall Apart’ Celebrates 20th Anniversary With Deluxe Reissue


The finest Roots album in this reviewer’s opinion has been given a loving, deluxe reissue by Universal Music. Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time reviewing an album that’s been reviewed to death, I want to talk about the total package that’s on offer. First my review is based on the 3 LP black vinyl edition and when I got this in the mail my jaw dropped, because it’s a heavy package chock full of important extra tracks as well as some incredible track by track commentary by Questlove and Black Thought, presented in a beautiful LP sized booklet that’s chock full of some amazing period photos. Spanning 3 LP’s this “Ultimate Edition” brings it hard but if there’s one thing I find a bit of head scratcher, is why not give 180g editions of the LP’s instead of their 150g thinner counterparts? You spend this amount of money these days and you deserve 180g or 200g. That aside in terms of fidelity I played the LP’s back on my Denon turntable with my Ortofon stylus and the sound was warm and expansive, filling the room with a good mix of bass and midrange sound. Thankfully unlike some labels where fresh vinyl is filled with poor pressing skips, this vinyl plays solid from start to runoff groove with zero audible sound in between the tracks. “What You Want” just blew me away and “thumps hard” just like Black Thought’s lyric.  This track was actually my intro to this album back when I was living in Beijing. I caught the video on Channel V and made a note to myself that the next time I visited HK to go to HMV and pick it up, which I eventually did. This reissue is a must for fans of the band and people who want to hear a true artwork with the vision and tunes to back it up. With a front cover of black youth being chased in Bed-Stuy by white cops, the album which is 20 years old this year sadly finds an America still mired in racism. But the message that comes ringing loud and clear from the record is that there’s hope amongst the cracks in the sidewalk. Amen to that.

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN:  “The Next Movement” “100% Dundee” “What You Want” “Adrenaline” “You Got Me” (Drum & Bass Mix)


GIANT SAND – Glum (25-Year Anniversary Re-issue)

Album: Glum (25-Year Anniversary Re-issue)

Artist: Giant Sand

Label: Fire Records

Release Date: November 08, 2019

Get spun or be glum: This is not a record review, but a freakin’ imprimatur to one day retire to the desert. Wash your hair and comb your face.


In 1992 a coupla East Coasters – that would be me, and my beautiful wife, from North Carolina – took a chance on the Old Pueblo (that’s “Tucson” to my fellow non-natives). Among other things, the move would eventually spawn a young Mills in the early days of ’01 precisely because our desert sojourn had bestowed upon us the courage to simply follow our instincts, rather than our random, often misguided, impulses. Said young Mills is now a college student here in NC, although let the record show that he was also accepted to the University of Arizona and, for a spell, he seriously entertained the idea, at least until the nuances of the term “in-state tuition” became clearer. But I digress…

For my part, I attribute much of my courage to being privy to, often on a firsthand basis (such as the courage of @Allison Mills, duh), that of other residents and transplants, who no doubt had to learn how to navigate the arc of the bad crazy sun during the day while sidestepping random cholla cactus spines that, as best I could tell, were being shot out, with maximum perversity, of aliens’ teeshirt cannons from myriad directions. Well, I learned how to hike in Arizona eventually.

Among those transplants was Mr. Howe Gelb, whose band Giant Sand had already caught my attention prior to my arrival. “Desert rock,” yo. And then came 1994, and “Glum,” on the brutally short-lived (and, let’s face it, somewhat inept during those grungy alt-rock-in-ascendance days) Imago label. All respect to my old friends at Imago – y’all did the best with with what ya wuz dealt. And new respect to Howe’s current supporters at Britain’s Fire Records, with the new 2LP version of “Glum,” which features an extra live disc and all the CD edition’s bonus tracks on the digital download.

The album is as much a revelation in 2019 as it was on “repeat” back when I was manning the trade counter and store stereo at the Zia Records location in 1994. Sean Murphy (of the River Roses), Mike Bollman (record collector extraordinaire), Maggie Golston (also a musician, and a local poet of considerable note), and all the rest of us played it over and over, no doubt aggravating the younger crew that came in later in the day to relieve us of our duties (the store was open until midnight). I suspect we converted more than a few of them to the cause, however, because an album this magical, this so purely Tucson, only happens once in awhile. It was recorded in New Orleans for the most part, but with folks like Rainer Ptacek and Chris Cacavas clocking in alongside Howe, Joey, John, and Paula Jean (let’s not forget Patsy of Patsy’s Rats either) among the many guest players (there is a gentleman named Peter Holsapple among the credits, fellow current North Carolinians), it’s all Old Pueblo.

It’s sublime and serene, chaotic and profane, sexily discombobulated, and both unearthly and familar all at the same time. In short, it was then, and to this day it remains, the sound of Tucson circa ’94. I know, because I was there.

Which is, I suspect, the way Howe intended it. Goddam, this record sounds good. Listen to him croak ‘n’ croon. I just may wash my hair, comb my face, and then go find a random record store where I can stand behind the counter for a few minutes as I savor the memories prior to being ejected from the premises for “activities inscrutable.” So be it. R.I.P. Pappy Allen.

TRACKS TO TRACK DOWN: “Yer Ropes,” “Spun,” “Helvakowboysong,” “World Stands Still” (KCRW live),  “Water Fuels the Fire” (bonus, w/download)

R.E.M. – In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 LP

Album: In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003

Artist: R.E.M.

Label: Craft Recordings

Release Date: June 07, 2019


Despite breaking up nearly 10 years ago, there are still few bands from the ‘80s and ‘90s that can still command allegiance from the masses like R.E.M. Sure there are a slew of groups from that era that can brag about cult status, but R.E.M is among the few who have managed to hold on to their core early adopters from their I.R.S. years and bring along an entire generation of new fans when they moved onto the much larger Warner Bros label in 1988. Which brings us to this stellar vinyl reissue of In Time their best of 1988 – 2003 collections.

The set, released less than six months after the band’s Reveal album, covers their time on Warner from 1988’s Green up to this point. The label Craft Recordings, like they have with other R.E.M. vinyl reissues, have done a brilliant job. Released on 180-gram vinyl, they made a limited run on translucent blue – simply stunning. This marks the first time in 15 years this record has been out on vinyl.

The double LP set includes 18 songs, including two from soundtracks (the so-so “All The Right Friends” from Vanilla Sky and the stunning “The Great Beyond” from Man On The Moon) as well as two previously unreleased tracks, “Animal” and “Bad Day”. The records are housed in a deluxe gatefold jacket. Unlike many of the quickly thrown together vinyl re-releases that are almost routine nowadays, In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003, along from being crammed with great songs, is gorgeously designed, befitting a band as important as R.E.M.





OST – Velvet Goldmine (Music From the Original Motion Picture)

Album: Velvet Goldmine (Music From the Original Motion Picture)

Artist: OST

Label: Universal Music Special Markets/Island/MVDaudio

Release Date: April 05, 2019


Though poorly received when it came out in 1998, director Todd Haynes’ glam rock fantasy Velvet Goldmine has, over time, become a beloved cult classic. Whatever one thinks of the film’s reimagining of the relationship between David Bowie and Iggy Pop, though, the soundtrack is where it’s at. A mix of period cuts and glam rock covers performed by a pair of all-star bands made up of nineties alt.rock luminaries, the songlist is damn near impeccable, even with the absence of any Bowie cuts.

While the original compact disc version has been the perfect companion on many a road trip, MVD’s first-time vinyl reissue couldn’t be any more appropriate. Given the film’s time period and its musical metiere, letting the songs spin on wax (especially when as garishly colored as this half-blue/half-orange version) just fits. Needle in groove lets Teenage Fanclub & Elastica’s Donna Mathews’ version of the New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis,” the Stooges’ “T.V. Eye” by the Wylde Rattz (AKA co-star Ewan McGregor fronting Ron Asheton, Thurston Moore, Don Fleming and others), and Placebo’s take on T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy” leap out of the speakers, teeth bared and power chords aflame. The less raging tracks fare just as well, especially the majestic interpretation of Steve Harley’s “Tumbling Down” from star Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the plethora of Roxy Music tunes (“2HB,” “Ladytron,” “Bitter’s End,” “Bitter-Sweet”) performed by the Venus in Furs, AKA Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Bernard Butler, Andy MacKay, and producer Paul Kimble. (For some reason Meyers’ take on Harley’s bizarre but affecting “Sebastian” didn’t make the cut on album.)

Speaking of Kimble, Grant Lee Buffalo, the band for whom Kimble played bass at the time, appears with an original: the pitch-perfect “The Whole Shebang,” which manages to sound period and just like its parent’s work at the same time. Ditto the two originals contributed by Shudder to Think, who ease back on their usual avant-garde weirdness to explore the diva-esque glam rock heart of their music with “Hot One” and “Ballad of Maxwell Demon.” Some actual vintage tunes appear as well: the real Roxy Music’s classic “Virginia Plain,” Lou Reed’s gorgeous “Satellite of Love,” T. Rex’s quirky “Diamond Meadows,” Brian Eno’s romping “Needle in the Camel’s Eye” (which runs over the opening credits in the movie) and, closing the LP, Harley’s breezy “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)” – quite possibly a lot of American glam fans’ introduction to this quirky British artist.

As both a sampler and a celebration of the seventies glam rock era, the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack is a gem. That it’s now out in the format that seems most natural to its era makes it gleam all the brighter.

DOWNLOAD: “Hot One,” “The Whole Shebang,” “Tumbling Down”


MY FAVORITE YEAR: Coltrane ’58: The Prestige Recordings

John Coltrane March 23, 1959 Rudy van Gelder Studio Hackensack NJ

Craft Recordings compiles a comprehensive set, Coltrane ‘58: The Prestige Recordings, of all John Coltrane recordings from a pivotal year. The 5CD box drops March 29, along with digital, while the 8LP version will be April 26. (Above photo: Esmond Edwards)


1958 was a landmark year for saxophonist John Coltrane, and by extension, for jazz as a whole as well. Coltrane had made his first recordings (in Hawaii with fellow Navy servicemen) some 12 years earlier and played as a sideman with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk in the middle 1950s, not recording under his own name until his 1957 debut, Coltrane, recorded for Bob Weinstock’s independent label, Prestige. While Coltrane is a superb album, it only hints at what was in store for the groundbreaking musician.

In 1958, Coltrane traveled seven times to Van Gelder Studios, working with engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Showing up at the Hackensack, New Jersey studio on average of once a month between January and May, and once more in both July and December (the latter on the day after Christmas), Coltrane recorded 37 songs. Remarkably by today’s standards, each session took place in a single day, and no songs were played on more than one session.

Newly clean after a serious bout with heroin addiction, John Coltrane was man on fire throughout ‘58. And at the risk of gross oversimplification, the experience of listening to those sessions in chronological order reveals the almost real-time flowering of the saxophonist from merely a very good musician to a visionary one.

The 1958 sessions yielded material that would see release on various albums, but only a handful were released during the period in which Coltrane was signed to Prestige. The five tracks recorded on February 7 yielded Soultrane, originally released the year of its recording. The box set’s remaining 32 sides would be scattered across other albums: The March 7 sessions yielded Kenny Burrell & John Coltrane (released 1963). Other tracks appeared on Lush Life and Settin’ the Pace (both 1961), 1962’s Standard Coltrane (1962), Stardust (1963) The Believer and Black Pearls (1964), Bahia from 1965 and The Last Trane (1966).

The tracks cut in gloriously pristine high fidelity by Van Gelder variously featured some of the era’s best sidemen, many of whom went on to greater fame themselves: Kenny Burrell on guitar, trumpeters Donald Byrd and Freddie Hubbard, Paul Chambers on upright bass, drummers Jimmy Cobb, Louis Hayes and Art Taylor, Tommy Flanagan and Red Garland on piano and trumpeter/flugelhorn player Wilbur Harden.

Coltrane’s earliest session from this banner year began with the saxophonist playing in a relatively conventional (yet transcendent) style; as the year progressed, Coltrane seemed to grow more ambitious. His famous “sheets of sound” (characterized as such by critic Ira Gitler) showed up early but became a central part of his approach as the year wore on.

The 8LP set opens with “Lush Life,” a cut that would be released as the a-side of a 1960 single. Six other tracks appeared as a- or B-sides on other Prestige singles (“I Want to Talk About You” and “By the Numbers” with Red Garland each saw release on 45s’ split across both sides). By the time of cutting the Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne chestnut “Time After Time” in December 1958, Coltrane had assimilated his adventurousness into a wholly accessible style. His approach seems almost effortless, true to the original melody yet unencumbered, unrestrained by it.

Hardcore Coltrane enthusiasts – and no doubt many others – will already own all of these tracks via their appearance on the aforementioned LPs and/or CD reissues. But that fact in no way lessens the impact or essential nature of the new Coltrane ‘58. Housed in a heavy cloth-bound binder, the set is spread across eight 180-gram vinyl LPs, each placed inside a black paper sleeve that fits into a heavier brown paper page of the 1 1/2” thick binder. The package also features a bound-in 40-page booklet that includes Grammy-winning music journalist/author Ashley Kahn’s superb essay, copious black-and-white and color photographs and reproductions of relevant memorabilia (Van Gelder’s handwritten notes, tape boxes and so forth).

The loving care that has gone into every part of this package more than justifies its cost. In fact, the music itself does that; as top-notch as it is, everything else included in Coltrane ‘58 should be regarded as bonus material.


The beloved ’90s Sacramento indie  icons get reissued by the equally respected Darla Records label. The duo discuss their career (interview originally published by the ever-diligent Dagger ‘zine). Photos follow the text, so scroll as you desire.


Holiday Flyer were truly something special in their 1990’s heyday. Hailing from Sacramento, but even in a scene that boasted bands like Tiger Trap and Rocketship, Holiday Flyer seemed to be off on their own island doin’ their own thing. Formed in the early 90’s by sibling John and Katie Conley, they released four LPs and several EPs and singles before calling it a day (and forming their next bands, California Orange for John and Sinking Ships for Katie,….now those bands are John’s Desario and Katie’s Soft Science).

I still remember them driving a few hours from Sacramento to Santa Rosa, where I was living and booking shows (circa 1994-’95) and introducing themselves to me at a show I had put together (I think it was Codeine) and telling me about their band, which got me immediately interested. The music was soft, spare and pretty….not quite folk music but close (with decidedly non-flowery lyrics). As the band went on and they added band members the sound got a bit denser but no less personal and still very melodic.

This year the Darla label is reissuing the first two albums, 1995’s Try Not To Worry and 1997’s The Rainbow Confection on limited edition vinyl (500 copies each).  It’s the first time on vinyl for both and the download for each one includes several extra unreleased tracks.

So, here a few weeks before their 2/14/19 release date, I shot John and Katie some questions re: the origins of the band and what they’re doing now. Quiet was the new loud.


Did you guys grow up in Sacramento or nearby?

John: We grew up in Rocklin and Roseville. In my early 20s I moved to downtown Sacramento. I have lived in or around the area ever since. Currently, I live in West Sacramento. I’m still really close to the downtown/midtown area of Sacramento which I like. I still try to go to as many shows as I can here in town.

Katie: So the Rocklin/ Roseville area is about 20 miles northeast of downtown Sacramento. It has grown a lot in the last several years with a major expansion of business and residential development. When we were young and growing up there the area still had a small town feel and some parts of the community were considered pretty rural – including our backyard ;-). I too eventually made it downtown and stayed for many years while I finished college. I still live in the Sacramento area.

What did you get into first…punk rock? New wave? Something else? What was the progression like?

John: The first genre of music I got into was Metal. The first album I ever bought was Blizzard of Ozz – Ozzy Osbourne. I met my Mike Yoas (Holiday Flyer, Desario) in 1985. He introduced me to Punk and New Wave. One of my favorite bands he turned me on to was Naked Raygun. They are still a favorite. Around 87 or 88 Katie and I started to listen to similar bands. We both loved The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Echo and the Bunnymen etc. When she turned 15, our parents would let her go to shows with me, which was cool. Looking back now, she was pretty lucky. She got to see some killer show. A venue in Sacramento called the Cattle Club booked some amazing bands in the 90’s. We saw Ride, Lush, Slowdive and Nirvana there, just to name a few.

Katie: Yep, as little sister, John pretty much always had an influence on my musical taste. He’s got great taste so why not follow! But I have to say I never really got into the punk rock. As a young child I really loved Olivia Newton-John, Pat Benatar, Fleetwood Mac, and Madonna (I must confess). Later The Bangles and the Go-Go’s were pretty big in my world. By my mid-teens is when John and I really started seeing eye to eye again regarding music. We watched a lot of 120 Minutes on MTV together. I remember that the first music posters on my bedroom wall in high school were Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths and R.E.M. Those bands pretty much sum up the start for me. And yes, I was seriously lucky my big brother didn’t mind taking his little sister with him to shows. The Ocean Blue and The Mighty Lemon Drops in San Francisco is one of the stand out shows John let me tag along on that comes immediately to mind.

Was it pretty early on that you and Katie began making music together?

John: Katie was always singing, even when she little. I started playing guitar when I was 13. I had a band my last year of high school and Katie would occasionally sing with us. We didn’t start playing together until after Katie graduated from High School.

Please tell me about the early days of Holiday Flyer? Was it pretty easy to make music with your sister or did it take some coaxing?

John: After High School, I had a couple of bands that didn’t last very long. I kind of lost interest in playing music for about 6 or 8 months afterwards. I didn’t stop listening though. I think one of the records that got me to pick the guitar back up was Today by Galaxie 500. There was something so different and special about that album for me. I started writing songs again and Katie would just come into my room and start sing with me. That was sort of the beginning of Holiday Flyer.

Katie: Yep, I pretty much forced my way in with harmonies that were not asked for.

What kind of stuff were you guys listening to at the time the band started?

John: I was really into a lot of shoegaze stuff. Ride, Lush, Slowdive. I think the band Moose had a huge influence on our writing. I had the early Moose EPs and remember buying an import copy of their first album. It was so different from the EPs, not shoegaze at all. It was really 70s folk influenced but still dreampop. At that time we were also really into some unfashionable 70s soft rock like Al Stewart, Bread, early Chicago, early Bee Gees ( Katie learned to play the snare/ride cymbal set-up playing along to Chicago and Carpenters records).

Katie: Bands I recall listening to quite a bit during the early days of Holiday Flyer, include The Red House Painters and Belly. Looking at both of our lists, I think its clear that the bands we regularly listened to at the time were quite different that what we were. We never really set out to replicate a sound. If anything I think the influence or take away we always had from whatever we were listening to was melodies, lyrics, and song structure. This was put through our filters and out came HF songs.

Had either of you been in bands before or was Holiday Flyer your first band? At what point did Verna come into the picture? Who else was in the band other than the two  of you?

John: I had a short lived punk band in High School. After that I had a band for a couple years called The Boon with Mike Yoas (Desario), and then another short-lived band called Ellie. There was a band called Light Iris that Katie and I were in with Jim Rivas ( Rocketship, Holiday Flyer, Desario). Katie and I both felt we were better able to achieve what we wanted to do musically as a duo so we left. Jim went on to play in Rocketship. That’s how we met Verna. We played shows with Rocketship and Dustin Reske engineered all of the early Holiday Flyer recordings. Katie and I worked as duo for the first year. The early recordings are layered guitars and Katie and I singing. We didn’t play live that often at first. In fact, we didn’t play a show until after we started sending out demos. We got asked to play a showcase for Alias Records in LA, and I had to wrangle a show at a cafe just to make sure we could pull off the songs before we went to LA. We continued to played shows as a duo (electric guitar and vocals). Katie added the snare drum and cymbal after we released our first 7″. When Rocketship broke up we asked Verna to play bass with us. This was the core band for most of Holiday Flyer. We had guests on most of the records. Our friend Toby Marshall played lead guitar on the Sweet and Sour EP. Ross Levine (Soft Science) played trombone on “The Rainbow Confection”. Mike Yoas played bass and Matt Levine (Soft Science) played guitar on “You Make Us Go”. For “I Hope”, we expanded to a full band with Jim Rivas on drums, Mike Yoas on bass.

When did it feel like a real band? When the first record came out or even before that?

John: It started feeling like a real band after we released “Try Not To Worry”. We were getting good reviews for the album and doing fanzine interviews. We were also playing shows in San Francisco and LA and opening shows for Red House Painters, America Music Club, Low and Smog.

Lyrically were there any specific themes you were exploring?

Katie: Looking back at the lyrics, some of them I really love, and a few of them I think oh no…can’t listen. They are lyrics only 19 year old me could have written. But overall, I think the HF lyrics are really just kids trying to make sense of it all in a somewhat sweet naive way. I think that might be part of the appeal? They are very honest.

John: I agree with Katie, I think most of the lyrics, especially on the early recording and first couple of records were us just writing what we knew. Some of it is difficult to listen to now, for numerous reasons. Ha Ha! That being said, I’m really proud of what we did in Holiday Flyer.

Katie: Me too.

When and why did the band break up?

Katie: Oh boy, why do you have to bring up old shite? Ha, Ha.

John: Well, it was my decision to end Holiday Flyer. It was just a good place to stop. We had made our most polished album, I Hope and I wanted to do something different. Verna and I had already released the first California Oranges album with our friend Ross Levine on drums. After a couple of show as a trio, we added Ross’s twin brother Matt on lead guitar and started working on our 2nd album “Oranges and Pineapples”. During that time Katie and Verna started recording a record with Ross and Matt which ended up being The Sinking Ships. About a year later we decided to merge the two bands and Katie joined California Oranges.

Sacramento is kind of a low-key city but has always had a great indie rock/pop scene throughout the years with all of your bands plus Rocketship, Tiger Trap, etc. Why do you think that is? Something in the water?

Katie: Perhaps the area somehow cultivates shut-ins? Ha, Ha.

John: Not really sure it’s big enough to call it a scene (ha ha). I think there might be a one degree of separation for most of the indie bands from Sacramento.

Please tell me about the reissues that Darla Records is doing?

John: James Agren at Darla has been wanting to reissue Try Not to Worry and The Rainbow Confection for a long time. Both albums were originally released on Silver Girl Records and have been out of print/unavailable for many years. With these reissues the entire HF catalog will now be available through Darla records. About a year ago James was finally able to get me to start the process. I felt it was a good time to reissue them. It took us awhile to gather all the miscellaneous tracks which will be included with the digital downloads of each record. I’m looking forward to them being available on vinyl for the first time. Both albums have been remastered by Mike Yoas along with all the bonus material including demos and songs we recorded for compilations. I’m really happy with how it turned out. The LPs sound really good. I think people who like the records will be happy with them. I designed new sleeves for both records too, which was fun. They also have liner notes written by Jack Rabid and Dave Heaton, which is super cool.

Will the band be (or have you been?) playing any gigs for the reissues?

Katie: I love singing with John it is a special experience that I really appreciate now that I have more perspective on what we did. But, we will have to see. We are both pretty busy with our other projects right now.

John: Katie and I played a few show over the last few years. One was opening for Mark Eitzel which was cool. We played a show with Mike Yoas on bass and Jim Rivas on drums for a local Summer concert series last year. Our current bands come first at this point, but if the right opportunity came up I’m sure we’d make it work.

Katie: Yes, we really appreciate everyone who helped make the reissues happen! Even our friend Scott Cymbala from Fingepaint Records (the label that released the first HF 7”- also Beck’s first 10”) dug through boxes at his house to find original copies of old songs that were remastered and are included with the bonus material.

What are you two doing musically these days?

John: I’ve been in Desario now for going on 15 years, which seems crazy. It’s not as easy to find time for music like when we were younger, but I’m glad to still be playing. Desario are going to start recording a new album in January and hopefully play some shows out of the Sacramento area next year.

Katie: I am in Soft Science. Our 3rd album Maps came out in June of 2018. It was released through Test Pattern Records which Ross and Matt Levine run, and I help here and there on occasion. John does most of the graphic design for the Test Pattern releases as well. We are all very fortunate for that! This last year was a pretty amazing year for Soft Science. A couple highlights include playing Paris Popfest and traveling to Michigan to play at the Kalamashoegazer fest. I enjoyed seeing you there Tim! I also enjoyed seeing my old pen pal from the HF days, the wonderful Janice Headley, who created the Copacetic zine in the early 1990s. I had not gotten to see her in many moons so that was fantastic. She was there playing in Tears Run Rings so that was an extra treat! For 2019 Soft Science will just be doing whatever we can with the current momentum we have. All in consideration of our normal lives of course ;-). But we all love it so, new songs, and more live shows are in the works!

What are some current Sacramento bands that we might not know about but need to?

Katie: Soft Science played with Rosemother this year and I thought they were quite good!

John: Arts & Leisure are working on a new record, which I’m excited about. Two other Sacramento bands I really like are Ghostplay and The Surrounded. Ghostplay has and EP out now, and The Surrounded are working on an LP or EP.

Any final thoughts?  Closing comments? Anything you wanted to mention that I didn’t ask?

John: Thanks Tim for all the support and interest over the years for our music. I’m also thankful to still be playing and look forward recording and playing live in 2019.

Katie: Just thanks for asking us to do the interview! We are thrilled there is interest in the reissues of our old HF albums. There is an overwhelming amount of music out there so when anyone listens and likes you it is best to be grateful. That we are!


MARTIN NEWELL – The Greatest Living Englishman

Album: The Greatest Living Englishman

Artist: Martin Newell

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: March 05, 2019


Martin Newell released this pop tour de force back in 1993, which makes it a shocking 25-years-old. If by now you haven’t heard this record then this reissue is a great time to get in on the action. Using the later era cover art for the record, the album is the finest slice of British guitar pop this side of XTC’s Skylarking and as fate would have it the record is produced by Andy Partridge. His presence looms large especially on tracks like “Back on the Hurricane” with a string sound that would eventually be used on XTC’s own “River of Orchids”. “She Rings the Changes” is as perfect a pop song as you can get, here Andy joins in on the chorus which will have you humming it long after the song has dissipated. This sets the stage for the song that is the true centerpiece of the album. “A Street Called Prospect” hits every single sweet spot for fans of British pop. From the harpsichord to the clever lyrics, this song is absolute perfection. I love how Newell turns a phrase, “And there’s a brown stone church with a cracked bell ringing, Where the boys learn boxing and the girls learn singing, Where the good take the cloth and the fallen join the game, Before they burn out so briefly like an insect in the flame”. That’s absolutely brilliant! A tough act to follow for sure but Newell manages to lay on us another stellar cut with “Christmas in Suburbia” filled with beach boy harmonies and a snappy beat. Then to finish the pop trifecta Newell offers up “Straight to You Boy” a plaintive beautiful number that shows a more introspective side to his writing. If there’s a downside to this iteration of the album it’s that Cherry Red for some odd reason has decided to strip the two extra tracks tacked onto a previous reissue of this record. Be that as it may this is a work of art that needs to be in every Kinks, Beatles and XTC fan’s collection.

DOWNLOAD:  “A Street Called Prospect” “Christmas in Suburbia”  “She Rings The Changes”Straight to You Boy”



TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS – The Best of Everything

Album: The Best of Everything

Artist: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Label: Universal/Geffen

Release Date: March 01, 2019


At first glance, you might ask yourself if The Best of Everything — which is subtitled “The Definitive Career Spanning Hits Collection” — was necessary. After all, there are already several other Petty anthologies including An American Treasure, which just arrived last fall and includes four discs. But An American Treasure — while comprehensive in scope — focuses mainly on deep cuts, live renditions and previously unreleased material. So being that there is little if any overlap between these two collections, the answer is a resounding “yes.” The Best of Everything serves a purpose and does it well.

Tom Petty’s death — on October 2nd, 2017 — left a gaping hole in the world of rock and roll. True, we’ve lost other plenty of other rockers, some quite recently. But there was something special about Petty. Back in the late ‘70s, when many music fans embraced either the corporate rock status quo or the more groundbreaking sounds of punk and New Wave, Petty was one of the few artists who could claim fans from both camps. And the ability to appeal to people of disparate interests and backgrounds never really left him. Petty and his Heartbreaker cohorts were unabashedly influenced by the artists who came before them (The Byrds, The Rolling Stones etc.) but they synthesized those influences into something that was fresh and perfectly in step with the times. And there was always something appealingly “normal” about Petty. He knew he was good but he lacked the arrogance of someone like Mick Jagger. He was Rock Star as Everyman and could be as critical of himself as he often was about the music business.

Likewise, The Heartbreakers were a tight and talented group of “regular guys” from Gainesville, FLA who happened to hit the big time. Mike Campbell was the perfect right hand man for Petty, an underrated lead guitarist capable of casually unleashing great solos and an adept co-writer as well. Keyboardist Benmont Tench was the son of a judge and probably the most intellectual Heartbreaker. Musically, he provided an essential component — which is no mean feat in a guitar-based band. Ron Blair’s rock star looks belied his penchant for stage fright and general shyness but he was a solid musician (check out the bass line in “American Girl”) and has the distinction of being both the first and third bassist in the band, following the sadly departed Howie Epstein. And while Stan Lynch fell out with Petty in the ’90s, there’s no question that he was an integral part of the band early on with his larger-than-life personality and drumming. In this writer’s opinion, The Heartbreakers were probably the greatest American band of the past 50 years.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released their self-titled debut at the end of 1976. Over the next 40 years or so, they would provide the soundtrack to millions of American lives. Some albums may have sold better than others, some may have even been better than others, but Petty never made a bad record — which is more than most artists who have been around for four decades can say. Even the albums that were spotty had their moments.

Which is where The Best of Everything comes in. It offers 38 tracks spread across two CDs (or four sides of vinyl). There are also some great photos, plus liner notes from Cameron Crowe. Admittedly, you don’t get many previously unreleased songs here — just two, in fact. But the quality of the music that you do get is so consistently top-notch that this hardly matters. The Best of Everything collects material from Petty’s solo career, his later efforts with Mudcrutch (TP, Campbell, Tench, Tom Leadon, and Randall Marsh) and, of course, plenty of stuff with The Heartbreakers. The songs aren’t arranged chronologically but this is an advantage in a way because it makes the listener realize that Petty was writing great songs throughout his career, even after he stopped being a regular presence on the charts. Most of the big hits (“Free Fallin’, ”Refugee,” “American Girl,” “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” etc.) appear on Disc 1. But there are some on Disc 2 as well, along with some excellent lesser known songs.

Even at 38 tracks, not all of Petty’s best work is represented and naturally fans will argue about what should or shouldn’t have made the cut (I, for one, wouldn’t have minded a couple more songs from Echo or Long After Dark). But again, this is a minor complaint. The number of great songs here is truly striking — as is the variety of those songs. Witness the title track from 1985’s Southern Accents, a breakthrough ballad that even this Connecticut Yankee can appreciate… The biting commentary of “The Last DJ,” which was banned by Clear Channel for telling some inconvenient truths about the music business… The Zeppelin-esque blues-rock of “I Should Have Known It” from 2010’s Mojo… Sad, beautiful ballads like “Room at the Top” and “Dreamville”…. And the back to basics rock and roll of “You Wreck Me” from Petty’s massively popular solo disc, Wildflowers.

Taken as a whole, The Best of Everything offers ample proof that Tom Petty was one of the most important and consistent figures in American rock and roll. These lines from “Walls,” a deceptively simple single from the overlooked She’s the One soundtrack, provides a fitting epitaph:

“Some things are over
Some things go on
Part of me you carry
Part of me is gone.”

RIP, Tom. We’ll never forget you.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS – The Albums: 1991-1997

Album: The Albums: 1991-1997

Artist: Stiff Little Fingers

Label: Cherry Red

Release Date: February 22, 2019


I must admit that I never really listened to Stiff Little Fingers later period material, but then this box set came along. The 4-cd set expands the albums released by the band spanning seven years in the ‘90s and is a bit of a mixed bag.

The centerpiece of the boxset is the live set from Glasgow circa 1993, a blistering run through their canon of songs. “Tin Soldiers” slays everything in sight and will have you pumping your fist to the chorus. “Alternative Ulster” is a punch to the gut, and like Sham 69’s “Hurry up Harry,” anthemic and empowering. The album Flags and Emblems is a brilliant return for a band that had broken up. An aggressive political statement that was a big fuck you to the corporation called government. Tracks like “(It’s A) Long Way To Paradise (From Here)” thumb their nose at the establishment and are a resounding call to action. “Beirut Moon,” the single which was deleted right after its release for taking on the government head on, is the perfect amalgamation of political chiding and anthemic rock. The antithesis to this record is Tinderbox which in this reviewer’s estimation is the weakest album of the bunch and sounds like an afterthought coming from a band with such lauded credentials. Get a Life is only slightly better, but begs the question, what was the goal of recording something that sounds somewhere between REO Speedwagon and Green Day? “Can’t believe in You” is a trite absurd tune that is so color-by-numbers it hurts. “Road to Kingdom Come” is dreadful and sounds like the band was chasing instead of leading. While not advocating artistic stasis, I do think that in this case their choice of direction was wrong and rings hollow.

Ultimately, this is a boxset for completists only.

DOWNLOAD: “(It’s A) Long Way To Paradise (From Here)” “Beirut Moon” “Tin Soldiers” “Alternative Ulster”




Album: The Tribe + Black Axis


Label: Southern Lord

Release Date: January 18, 2019


When the Caspar Brötzmann Massaker appeared in the late eighties, there was no real precedent for what the Berlin trio was doing. The son of German free jazz icon Peter Brötzmann, Caspar wields his guitar like you’d expect the scion of an energy music pioneer to do – bluntly, using riffs like bludgeons and solos like scythes to cut down anything foolish enough to stand in his way. But there’s a stentorian vibe to his music as well, a kind of Teutonic grit that gives the trio’s rhythms – provided by bassist Eduardo Delgado Lopez and a series of drummers – a machine-like cadence reminiscent of industrial music. Drawing equally from Sonny Sharrock and Einstürzende Neubauten, the Massaker made one hell of a noise.

The CBM was originally introduced to a wider audience through 1993’s Koksofen, a rumbling, roaring powerhouse that was the band’s first LP to get a wide issue outside of its home country. But there were three albums that came before, and underground metal label Southern Lord has done old school fans – indeed, anyone who loves avant-garde rock – a favor with a new reissue campaign.

Originally released in 1988 only in Germany, The Tribe presents the trio in formative form. “Paul,” “Bonkers Dance” and the title track feature a healthy postpunk influence and more of Brötzmann’s flattened Eurocroon that would appear in future. “The Call” eschews singing completely, but it too betrays its Reagan years creation, especially with its chorused guitar tone. “Time” and “Massaker” again put the leader at the mic a bit too often, but musically they move into the hallmarks of the CBM: epic song lengths, repetitive structures and a brutal attack based in noise, jazz and doom metal. The sound of the band’s early efforts might be a something of a surprise to fans who only know the group’s American releases – the relatively accessible rhythms and frequency of vocals would make it seem like someone else if not for the raging guitar solos. Diehards might not consider them prime CBM, but they’ve still got power and style to spare, and when Brötzmann puts plectrum to Strat they’re difficult to resist.

Black Axis, again released only in Germany, this time in 1989, is where it all snaps into place. Leadoff “Die Tiere” filters Jimi Hendrix through a machinist filter, but “Hunter Song” puts it all together: drillbit lead lines, jazzhammer drumming, howling feedback, angry muttering and a relentless atmosphere of doom, gloom and ka-boom. “Böhmen” and “Tempelhof” follow suit, consolidating the group’s vision into tracks that flow between foreboding and freaking the fuck out. An odd break in the action, “Mute” absorbs a rhythmic attack that, in another light and angle, might be mistaken for funk, before Brötzmann’s axe overwhelms it. But it all comes down to the title cut, a  near-fifteen minute, pitch-black distillation of six-string chaos and doom-laden rumble makes nearly everything the band had done before sound like practice.

Given the band’s improvisational, live-in-studio recording, you’d think there would be outtakes a-plenty that could be used as bonus tracks. That’s not the route Southern Lord took, however, preferring instead to present the records as they were when first issued thirty years ago. A fair tack, since these records were difficult to find by American fans turned on by Koksofen. Easy to find at last, these opening salvos make clear that the Caspar Brötzmann Massaker hammered out a distinctive sound even in its formative beginnings.

DOWNLOAD:  The Tribe (3 stars): “Massaker,” “Bonkers Dance,” “Heavens Gate”

Black Axis (4 stars): “Black Axis,” “Hunter Song,” “Templehof”